Back to the lab…

…by Chiara / from Austria / PhD Neuroscience 2016-2019

“The festival is finally over, and citizens have been told it is safe to return to Edinburgh.” – this is how one satire newspaper reported the end of the various festivals that take place in Edinburgh during August. As opposed to the last few years, I managed to go to some shows during the Fringe, but I am glad the fuss is now all over and Edinburgh goes back to its quiet self.

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I managed to escape Edinburgh this August a bit though. I had a wonderful holiday in Iceland and a few unexpectedly sunny days in the northernmost highlands of Scotland. Iceland was magnificent and offered landscapes like I’d never seen anywhere else before (and it’s only a short flight from Scotland!), and I was also stunned by the beaches the north of Scotland has to offer – I have summarized my trips here and given some advice on the best cozy bothies to stay in Scotland if you want some inspiration on what to explore in Scotland in your free time 😉

 

After a long year with lots of new challenges (such as first presentations at conferences and a two-month scientific exchange in Germany), I definitely needed this break to recharge my energy.

A PhD is always a bit like a rollercoaster ride. It definitely will never be boring, but there can be great times and times when simply nothing seems to work and you start doubting yourself (hello, imposter syndrome). Earlier this year, I was struggling to get an experiment that should have been relatively straightforward to work for months. I was almost at the point of telling my supervisor that I just couldn’t do this technique – but she told me I’d be fine and I’m almost there. So with a lot of trouble shooting and optimization, it did end up working. A big lesson therefore is to be persistent, and even more so, to believe in yourself as my supervisor did when I was doubting myself.

Luckily, now that I’m back from holiday, things are going really well in the lab and it seems like a very interesting narrative of my project is falling into place. I am working a lot to finish one part of my project at the moment, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to move to the (single cell) RNA sequencing which I am really excited – and maybe a little bit anxious – about.

In other news, our small lab is expanding in October. We’re getting a new technician, who will help me with the laborious work of collecting RNA sequencing samples from our tiny zebrafish larvae. I am very grateful that we were awarded this money, as it will make my life a lot easier, and hopefully speed up the process a bit.

So – what next? It’s weird to think that as of October, I will be in the third year of my PhD. Time sneaks up on you during your PhD. Starting my project still feels like it was only a few weeks ago. But, doing the outline for my thesis chapters (although the writing is still one and a half years away with my additional funding) made me realize I have come quite far, and I do know a lot about my project. This is probably one of the most rewarding things: you might not always notice it while it’s happening, but you learn a lot during your PhD, both in laboratory and transferrable skills, and you grow a lot as a scientist (and a person learning to deal with stress).

I will report back once the third year has actually commenced and my RNA sequencing project has started 🙂


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